Best of the Week
Most Popular
1.Stock Market Crash and Recession Indicator Warning: Extreme Danger Ahead - Harry_Dent
2. Is This How World War III Begins, In Almost Complete Silence? - Jeff_Berwick
3.Trump Wins 2nd Presidential Debate, Betfair Betting Markets Odds Bounce - Nadeem_Walayat
4.Why Krugman, Roubini, Rogoff And Buffett Dislike Gold - GoldCore
5.End of SPX Stock Market Correction Nears - Tony_Caldaro
6.Get Ready for the Future - Exponential Machine Intelligence Mega-trend towards Singularity - Nadeem_Walayat
7.US Housing Market Bubble II – It’s Happening Again! - Andy_Sutton
8.FTSE BrExit Stock Market Panic Crash Resolves towards New All Time Highs - Nadeem_Walayat
9.Can Trump Still Win Despite Opinion Polls, Bookmakers and Pundits all Saying Hillary has Won? - Nadeem_Walayat
10.Gold’s, Miners’ Stops Run - Zeal_LLC
Last 7 days
The Next Big Shoe to Drop – Student Loans - 27th Oct 16
The Twists and Turns of the Greenback - 27th Oct 16
Obamacare Is Draining Our Financial Reserves - 27th Oct 16
Brexit II: Is Donald Trump a False Flag? - 27th Oct 16
“Chindia” Buying Gold on Dips, 20% Corrections Are “Non Events” - 27th Oct 16
4 Incredible Market Forecasts You Have to See to Believe - 26th Oct 16
Silver Prices in an Exponential Financial System - 26th Oct 16
Rigged Election: Hillary and Trump Caught Partying Like BFF’s With Kissinger at Jesuit Gala - 26th Oct 16
The Current Message of Yield Curves: Inflation or Deflation? - 25th Oct 16
Broken Central Banks: 4 Quick Pix - 25th Oct 16
Government Stimulus is an Oxymoron, Debt to GDP - 25th Oct 16
Where Will Crude Oil Price Head Next? - 25th Oct 16
Diamonds in the Gold and Silver Mining Stocks - 25th Oct 16
Trump’s Gettysburg Address against the New World - 25th Oct 16
This Past Week in Gold - 24th Oct 16
Can Gold Continue To Rise, Since The Usd Is Moving Higher Too? - 24th Oct 16
Why are Americans Avoiding the Stock Markets; Fear or Lack of Money? - 24th Oct 16
The US Is NOT a Low-Tax Jurisdiction - 24th Oct 16
Stocks, Crude Oil and EURUSD Trend Forecasts - 24th Oct 16
Stock Market Another Month to Go? - 24th Oct 16
Large Sell-off in Stock Market Looming - 24th Oct 16
Ungovernability - 24th Oct 16
Stock Market Boredom Before The Storm - 24th Oct 16
Establishment Mainstream Media Elite Buys US Election for Hillary Clinton, Time Running Out for Trump - 23rd Oct 16
Inflation About To Explode Higher - 22nd Oct 16
Still waiting for SPX uptrend to kick off - 22nd Oct 16
Will a Rising US Dollar Crush Gold’s Fledgling Bull? - 22nd Oct 16
Why The Global Economy Will Disintegrate Rapidly Back to Olduvai Gorge - 22nd Oct 16
GLD Bleeds Out; Weekly Gold Update - 22nd Oct 16
Stock Market Investment Success Through the “Investment Rule of 72” - 21st Oct 16
The Final Bottom in Gold - WHEN - 21st Oct 16
Gold Green Lights Upleg - 21st Oct 16
Demand for US Mints Silver Eagles has ‘Returned with a Vengeance’ - 21st Oct 16
Central Bankers Can't Stop The Death Blow Of The Post US Election Recession - 21st Oct 16
The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Golden Opportunity for Frontier Asia - 21st Oct 16
Have You Taken These 4 Simple Steps to Improve Your Trading? - 21st Oct 16
The Stock Market is an Accident Waiting to Happen - 20th Oct 16
It's Rally Time for Gold and Silver Equities - 20th Oct 16
Cashless Society – Risks Posed By The War On Cash - 20th Oct 16
China's insane Housing Market Will Tumble and Crash in 2017 - 20th Oct 16
Donald Trump Bounces Going into 3rd and Final US Presidential Election Debate - 20th Oct 16
Attention Please: Phase Two of the Gold and Silver Train Now leaving the Station. All Aboard? - 19th Oct 16
How to Successfully Trade a Stock Market Crash - Black Monday October 19th 1987 - 19th Oct 16
Tesla, Apple and Uber Push Lithium Prices Even Higher - 18th Oct 16
Silver, Debt, and Deficits – From an Election Year Perspective - 18th Oct 16
UK Property Market: Slow Growth Does Not Equate To Decline - 18th Oct 16
Trump Election Victory is in Your Power - 18th Oct 16
Stock Market More to Come! - 18th Oct 16
This Past Week in Gold and Silver - 17th Oct 16
A Falling Stock Market Cannot Be Allowed - Financial Repression Is Now “In-Play”! - 17th Oct 16
Commodities, Forex and Stock Market Trend Forecasts - 17th Oct 16
Stock Market Crash..or No Crash? - 17th Oct 16
A perspective on risk rally – Risks abound but Stock Market is Confident - 17th Oct 16
Bank of England Blames Brexit for Sterling Drop Inflation, Masks QE Money Printing Cause - 17th Oct 16
From Piety to Pride to Pity, America's Racial Divide - 17th Oct 16

Free Instant Analysis

Free Instant Technical Analysis

Market Oracle FREE Newsletter

The Power of the Wave Principle

The Solar Energy Tipping Point, Polysilicon Prices in 2012

Commodities / Solar Energy Nov 27, 2012 - 03:37 AM GMT

By: Investment_U


David Fessler writes: Solar energy detractors point to the fact that it can’t compete without “huge” government subsidies. And up until now, I couldn’t argue to the contrary.

But very soon, those detractors will likely be eating their words. I’ve said it many times in the past: Technology marches on, and the cost of manufacturing will come down.

Well the cost of manufacturing solar isn’t just coming down; it’s dropping through the floor. By the end of this year, solar will be so cheap it will compete with just about any other form of generation. It already does in some places, and at commercial scale levels. The best part? It will do it without subsidies.

You see, solar panel prices are about to cross a tipping point. It’s all due to the drop in price of a solar module’s most crucial ingredient: polysilicon.

The Polysilicon House of Cards

Polysilicon prices have collapsed 90% in the last five years. That translates directly into lower module costs, lower panel prices and ultimately into a lower installed cost per watt.

How did this happen? Way back in 2006, there was a run on polysilicon. It turns out it’s the same material used to make integrated circuits. But all of a sudden, the solar industry was booming, and competing for what was then a limited supply.

Its use for solar was rising rapidly, and 2006 was the first year that 50% of all polysilicon went into the manufacture of modules for solar panels. And panel manufacturers were clamoring for even more.

Polysilicon makers were laughing all the way to the bank, and then some. They essentially were an oligopoly, and were earning upwards of 40% margins on their product, according to a recent research report published by GTM Research.

Prices just kept rising along with demand, and by 2008 the shortage was so severe, polysilicon was selling for over $400 per kilogram on the spot market. Margins had risen to 70%.

Naturally, this lured new players into the market, and led existing makers to expand manufacturing capacity. But they overestimated how much was really going to be needed.

By 2011, much of this additional capacity began to come online, and polysilicon prices started falling. By March of 2011, the spot price had dropped to $80 per kilogram, and by this past December, it was all the way down to $30 per kilo.

This incredibly low spot price was all the leverage customers with long-term contracts needed to renegotiate lower prices.

GTM Research predicts that in 2012, these declining silicon prices will lead to even lower module prices. At the beginning of 2011, module prices were $1.80 per watt. By the end of 2011, they were halved to $0.90 per watt.

Closing in on Grid Parity

This year, GTM expects module prices to breach the $0.70-per-watt barrier and continue to head south. Of course, with other manufacturing costs and installation being relatively fixed, lower raw material means lower panel prices. And $0.70 per watt is below the magic $1.00-per-watt level that’s widely viewed as “grid parity” for solar.

That’s the point where it makes just as much sense to use solar as any other form of generation.

The system I installed at my farm is 10.08 kilowatts (KW). Over its 25-year lifetime, it’s expected to produce an average of 12,000 to 18,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year.

I’m leasing my system for five years, and will then purchase it. My total all-in cost is about $27,000. (Since I’m leasing the system, I don’t receive any government subsidies or tax breaks.)

Let’s assume that the system produces the minimum amount per year, 12,000 kWh.

Multiplying by 25 and then dividing by the cost of the system, we come up with $0.08 per kWh. My current electricity from the grid operator costs $0.14 per kWh.

That’s almost a 50% savings. If I produce even more, my savings will be even higher.

And this system has panels that were manufactured in 2011. Panels made this year will be even cheaper, and so will the all-in cost.

Misinformation and Black Eyes

So what’s keeping solar from being widely adopted? Lack of information, for one…

The industry got quite a black eye over the Solyndra deal.

GTM Research Senior Analyst, Brett Prior, believes the industry will continue to grow at 10% to 20% per year for the foreseeable future. He had this to say about the polysilicon market today:

“After a half-decade of silicon demand outstripping supply, the aggressive expansion plans finally overshot.

“This supply/demand imbalance will push producers to lower contract prices closer to the level of manufacturing costs at $20 per kilogram, and will force higher-cost manufacturers to exit the industry.

“The end result is that the current roster of over 170 polysilicon manufacturers and startups will likely be winnowed down to a dozen survivors by the end of decade.”

I believe that as prices continue to drop, solar will continue to gain in popularity.

Big panel manufacturers like U.S.-based SunPower Corporation (Nasdaq: SPWR) will be around when the dust settles. They currently make the most efficient (19%) commercially available panels in the world. The stock is way off its highs of a year ago, but is up a healthy 22% since the beginning of the year.

So is it solar boom time? I don’t have a crystal ball, but with module prices continuing to drop, it becomes more attractive every day. That’s good news for panel manufacturers, as they’ll continue to improve as volumes ramp up. Investors certainly won’t find them any cheaper than they are right now.


by David Fessler, Advisory Panelist, Investment U

Copyright © 1999 - 2012 by The Oxford Club, L.L.C All Rights Reserved. Protected by copyright laws of the United States and international treaties. Any reproduction, copying, or redistribution (electronic or otherwise, including on the world wide web), of content from this website, in whole or in part, is strictly prohibited without the express written permission of Investment U, Attn: Member Services , 105 West Monument Street, Baltimore, MD 21201 Email:

Disclaimer: Investment U Disclaimer: Nothing published by Investment U should be considered personalized investment advice. Although our employees may answer your general customer service questions, they are not licensed under securities laws to address your particular investment situation. No communication by our employees to you should be deemed as personalized investment advice. We expressly forbid our writers from having a financial interest in any security recommended to our readers. All of our employees and agents must wait 24 hours after on-line publication or 72 hours after the mailing of printed-only publication prior to following an initial recommendation. Any investments recommended by Investment U should be made only after consulting with your investment advisor and only after reviewing the prospectus or financial statements of the company.

Investment U Archive

© 2005-2016 - The Market Oracle is a FREE Daily Financial Markets Analysis & Forecasting online publication.

Post Comment

Only logged in users are allowed to post comments. Register/ Log in

Catching a Falling Financial Knife